Windows Azure Service Name Update – emPHAsis on the Wrong syLLAble

Last night, Windows Azure customers received an email from the Windows Azure Team with “Service Name Updates” in the subject. The first paragraph of the email reads:

In the coming weeks, we will update the Windows Azure Service names that appear in the usage records you download. These are only name changes – your prices for Windows Azure are not impacted. The table below summarizes the changes:

This table followed:

Nowhere in the email was there mention of the Windows Azure name going away, in fact Windows Azure was used eight times in the email excluding the previous table. However, social media and bloggers have developed a conspiracy theory that the Windows Azure brand is history. I would suggest that they completely missed the forest for the trees. If you look at the Prior Service Names for the Windows Azure Platform services, they fall into three major buckets, Windows Azure, AppFabric and SQL Azure. In the New Service Names, there is no mention of those three.

I would suggest that instead of this being a move to deprecate the Windows Azure brand, this might be a move to reduce confusion and consolidate more on the Windows Azure name.

Chicago Windows Azure Kick Start on May 3rd

I’ve been in Redmond all week hanging out with some awesome folks on the Microsoft campus. This evening, I will be heading back to Chicago to host a Windows Azure Kick Start. If you are new to the Cloud and Windows Azure, or would just like some time to get hands-on and create an app in Windows Azure, tomorrow’s Windows Azure Kick Start is for you. There are only 4 seats left and if you’d like to attend, you should register soon.

Register for the Windows Azure Kick Start

Tomorrow, May 3rd, you will get to spend the day with some of the nation’s leading cloud experts in learning how to build a web application that runs in Windows Azure. We will show you how to sign up for free time in the cloud, and how to build a typical web application using the same ASP.NET tools and techniques you already use today. We will explore web roles, cloud storage, SQL Azure, and common scenarios. We will save time for open Q&A, and even cover what should not be moved to cloud. This will be a hands-on event where you will need a laptop configured with the required pieces. We will have help onsite to get the right bits installed as well.

Lunch and prizes will be provided and you could get lucky and win a Kinect!

Microsoft – Chicago Office
200 E Randolph St
Chicago, Illinois 60601
9:00AM – 5:00PM

To make the best use of your time at the Windows Azure Kick Start Event, we recommend you prepare the following requirements before the event:

  • A computer or laptop: Operating Systems Supported: Windows 7 (Ultimate, Professional, and Enterprise Editions); Windows Server 2008; Windows Server 2008 R2; Windows Vista (Ultimate, Business, and Enterprise Editions) with either Service Pack 1 or Service Pack 2
  • Install the free Windows Azure SDK and required software using Web Platform Installer.
  • Setup a Free Windows Azure Platform Trial. If you have MSDN you should activate your MSDN Azure Benefits.
  • The sample code and handbook for the labs will be provided at the event.
  • Consider bringing a power strip or extension cord to stay charged all day.

Register for the Windows Azure Kick Start

Night Train to Detroit Day of Azure

I have a latte in hand and am ready for the 5 1/2 hour night train that’s ahead. In just a few minutes, I will be departing Chicago on an Amtrak headed to Detroit for Detroit Day of Azure. Detroit Day of Azure is a one-day conference focused on Windows Azure with some of the best Windows Azure experts and speakers. This conference will take place tomorrow, Saturday, March 24th at the Microsoft Offices in Southfield, MI from 8:00 AM – 5:30 PM. If you have already registered, I will likely see you tomorrow. If you have not registered, unfortunately, the conference is sold out. If you are still interested in attending, you can sign up on the wait list and be notified as cancellations occur.

Tomorrow, I will be presenting “BI in the Cloud with SQL Azure Reporting” at 10:20 AM in the Technical Briefing Center. If you are interested in Business Intelligence and performing BI in the Cloud, attend my session where we will dig into Azure BI scenarios and tools including SQL Azure Reporting. The full description is below and you can get more information about my session and Detroit Day of Azure at

BI in the Cloud with SQL Azure Reporting
Why maintain infrastructure for operational reporting, when you can do it in the cloud with SQL Azure Reporting? SQL Azure Reporting provides a set of capabilities that are familiar for developers using SQL Server Reporting Services on-premise. We will begin this session by considering the benefits and scenarios for BI in the cloud. Next, we will walkthrough what you need to get started using SQL Azure Reporting. We will then develop and deploy some reports to SQL Azure Reporting. Unfortunately, SSRS and SQL Azure Reporting do not have complete feature parity. As a result, we will conclude by reviewing the challenges and limitations of using SQL Azure Reporting over SQL Server Reporting Services.

You will learn the benefits of BI in the Cloud; the capabilities of SQL Azure Reporting; how to create and deploy reports to SQL Azure Reporting; and an understanding of the limitations of SQL Azure Reporting.

See you tomorrow in Detroit!

That Conference – From The Clouds #1

That Conference - Summer Camp for GeeksWelcome to the first installment of “That Conference – From the Clouds”. I am honored to be the Track Chair for That Conference’s Cloud Track. I will be working with you, the attendees, to bring interesting and informative Cloud sessions to our Summer Camp for Geeks.

Cloud is a huge and growing space with a lot of surface area across technologies and platforms. As a result, Cloud has become a huge market opportunity for vendors and this leads to lots of marketing hype. Today, there are many Cloud products and services to choose from, and while most of them fit, there are some that stretch the Cloud quite a bit.

Cloud Litmus Test

So how do you know what is and isn’t Cloud? What is the Cloud Litmus test? When I consider whether something should be classified as Cloud, I look for the five essential characteristics embedded in the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s (NIST) definition of Cloud.

“Cloud computing is a model for enabling ubiquitous, convenient, on-demand network access to a shared pool of configurable computing resources (e.g., networks, servers, storage, applications, and services) that can be rapidly provisioned and released with minimal management effort or service provider interaction.”

The Five Essential Characteristics of Cloud

  1. On-Demand, Self-Service: Consumers can provision computing resources as needed without requiring human interaction with a service provider.
  2. Broad Network Access: Resources and services are available anywhere using common communication standards.
  3. Resource Pooling: Resources and services are available for multiple consumers using a multi-tenant model. They are assigned and unassigned to consumers based on demand to achieve resource leveling and economic benefit.
  4. Rapid Elasticity: Resources and services can be provisioned and released rapidly and in some cases automatically to accommodate demand. This often gives the illusion of infinite scale.
  5. Measured Service: Usage can be monitored, controlled, and reported for consumers. Often services are billed on a pay-per-use or consumption model.

When considering vendors, products and services that claim to be Cloud, this is the Litmus test that hold them against.

Cloud Confusion

Last month, I spoke in Silicon Valley at Cloud Connect Santa Clara. I saw many thought provoking sessions and speakers. And the expo floor was full of vendors showing off their offerings and making big announcements. When I see vendors marketing Cloud, they fit into lots of categories. Here are some examples:

  • Networks and Connectivity
  • Infrastructure, both hardware and software
  • Storage, Backup and DR
  • Data Centers and Hosting Providers
  • Development and Testing Tools
  • Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) Providers
  • Platform as a Service (PaaS) Providers
  • Software as a Service (SaaS) Providers
  • Orchestration, Monitoring and Management Tools
  • Consultancies, Professional services firms and Integrators
  • And then, Other

It’s pretty easy to see how Cloud can get cluttered and confusing quickly. Developers are often concerned with a small subset of these categories, but it’s difficult to wade through the marketing to determine what vendors have something interesting to explore further.

Cloud @ That Conference

At That Conference, Cloud will be interesting and informative for attendees. To do that, we have to collaborate. So I’ll leave you with three questions.

  1. What would you like to see and hear more about?
  2. What technologies, platforms and vendors are interesting?
  3. What questions do you have?

Please provide your thoughts and continue the conversation in the comments below or on twitter.

Cloud Connect Follow-up

Thank you to all who attended my “Applications at Scale” session at Cloud Connect!

In the session, I introduced a number of application scalability concepts. Those concepts map really well to cloud computing and scalable public cloud platforms like Windows Azure. The following are links to additional resources on architecting and developing scalable applications. If you know of other great resources, feel free to comment and add them to the discussion on this post.

High Scalability web site
Eric Brewer’s Principles of Distributed Computing Keynote
Julian Browne’s article on Brewer’s CAP Theorem
Werner Vogels article on Eventual Consistentcy

If you need to build applications that can scale up or down on-demand, while serving users globally regardless of device or platform, Windows Azure is worth checking out. Here are some useful links to get you started.

First, you need the Windows Azure SDK and Tools to get started developing applications for Windows Azure. The SDK includes an emulator for Windows Azure compute and storage. This will enable you to develop on your machine without having to deploy to the cloud. This capability reduces your development time and cost associated with deploying to Windows Azure for development.
Azure SDK Download

At some point, you will want to deploy your application to the Windows Azure cloud and there are a couple of ways to get development time and resources for Windows Azure. If you are an MSDN subscriber, you can get up to $3,700 a year in free Windows Azure resources. For more information, check out MSDN Windows Azure Benefits. If you don’t have an MSDN subscription, you can get a free 90-day trial at FREE 90-day Windows Azure Trial.

The Windows Azure Training Kit is loaded with helpful presentations, demos and hands-on labs for working with Windows Azure.
Get the Windows Azure Training Kit

In addition, I’ve got lots of great resources and tips for you on developing for
Windows Azure. Visit my Toolbox page to find out more.
More Windows Azure Resources

If you’d like personalized, one-on-one guidance or consulting, Centare helps organizations move to and take advantage of the cloud. To learn more about Centare and how we help customers with software development and cloud computing. Check out Centare’s Cloud Services.